Is IPOB going into armed struggle?

By Emeka Mamah

Attacks on police stations by youths in the South East who also loot arms and ammunition from their armouries is a new side to the insecurity in the country. There are different interpretations of the situation.

Security experts claim that members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, might  have adopted this method in its fights with the security agencies. 

IPOB has distanced itself from the allegations that it was moving towards armed struggle, but tongues are seriously wagging towards such direction.

IPOB told South East Post that it "remains peaceful in the pursuit for Biafra freedom and independence from Nigeria," adding that its security arm, "the "Eastern Security Network, ESN, personnel are not Biafra Army. They're vigilantee group."

Reasons for the suspected transformation of IPOB from a peaceful to armed group may not be far fetched.

Security agencies have over the years abducted members of IPOB and either killed some or detained others in unknown cells across the country for as long as they wished without formal charges in courts.

IPOB supporters often accuse both the state and federal governments of high-handedness and brutality as they point to the killings of their members in cold blood. Their members have severally been brutally killed at Nkpor in Anambra State; Aba in Abia State; Obigbo in Rivers State as well as, Ebonyi State and Emene in Enugu State.

They may therefore, have gone into armed struggle following frequent killing of their innocent members by security operatives.

Sometimes in August 2020, a combined team of soldiers, policeman and operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, invaded a meeting of IPOB supporters at a school premises in Emene near Enugu and opened fire on them, killing no fewer than 25 unarmed youths in the process. 

However, in the last eight days, armed youths suspected to be IPOB members have attacked the Orlu and Obowo police stations in Imo State; Omoba Police Station in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State as well as Onicha Divisional Police Headquarters in Isu, Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

The attackers invaded the Obowo Police Divisional Headquarters on Friday, February 6, 2021, killing two police officers and injuring three others.

At Obowo, the attackers arrived the station in a white Toyota Sienna  vehicle, with some, on fake police uniform claiming they came on investigation and on entering into the counter overpowered the men on duty,  killing two policemen in the process.

According to the Imo State Police Spokesman, Orlando Ikokwu, although two officers were killed and three others injured, other officers repelled the invading hoodlums.

In Ebonyi State, the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Loveth Odah, who spoke on the attack on Onicha Divisional Police Headquarters, Isu in Onicha Local Government Area of the state said the hoodlums burnt the left wing of the division, including four patrol vehicles.

"Today being 4/02/2021 at about 0325hrs hoodlums suspected to be members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, attacked Onicha Divisional Headquarters, Isu in Onicha L.G.A of Ebonyi State, set ablaze the left wing of the Division and four patrol vehicles.

"This followed threats by the proscribed group who are alleging that the police were protecting the Fulani herdsmen who they accused of being responsible for the killing of one of their members 'Nwite Njoku ‘m.' One policeman sustained machete cut injuries during the attack and he is responding to treatment in the hospital.

"Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police Ebonyi State, CP Aliyu Garba took on the spot assessment tour of the Area and met with the stakeholders in the c4ommunity to seek ways with the community in carrying out the investigation on the matter.

"The CP while assuring the general public, particularly the residents of the state of his continued commitment to the protection of lives and properties, urges all to remain law abiding as normalcy has totally return to the Area,"  Odah said.

In the case of Omoba Police Station in Abia State, the police said the unidentified gunmen looted the police amoury and killed a policeman in the station.

Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, in the state, Superintendent Geoffrey Ogbonna, confirmed the incident and added that investigation had commenced although no arrests had been made.

According to the story, gunmen  numbering about 20, invaded the Omoba Police Station in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area, Abia State, on Tuesday,  killing a policeman and looting the police armory in the process.

The gunmen who arrived in over 15 motorcycles, opened fire at the station while policemen on guard duty responded.

The policemen, however, fled from their duty posts due to the superior fire power of the invading gunmen.

It was further alleged that, the gunmen however, gained access to the armoury where they looted arms and ammunition.

This trend shows that the main reason for invading police stations is the lure to  looth arms and ammunition from their armouries, apparently in a bid to confront security agencies who they allege, had been killing Igbo youths at the slightest provocation. 

Some security experts think that other youth that the security agencies had provoked that are on rampage exploiting the cover of IPOB. They are also doing it a a time of heightening tensions across the country over the activities of Fulani herdsmen.

It is important that the police spread their nets in searching for those who attack their stations instead of being fixated on IPOB.

This same pattern was what led to the escalation of the Boko Haram crises in the North East Region and Borno State in particular, following the murder of the leader of the group by the police in Borno State.

Sometime in August 2020, a combined team of soldiers, the police and operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, murdered over 50 Igbo youths who were holding their meeting in a school compound in Emene, claiming that those killed were practising martial arts at the time they were murdered. The security agencies did not say if training in martial arts was an offence, not even to talk of being a capital offence. 

The clash threw the whole Emene and environs into chaos and disrupted church services as worshippers of the various churches in the area ran helter-skelter to escape being caught in the commotion.

An eyewitness account said that the trouble started at about 7.00 am when some police officers invaded the Community Secondary School Emene where members of IPOB were meeting, to disperse and arrest them.

According to the account, the attempt was resisted, turning the encounter bloody with IPOB members reportedly overpowering the security operatives.

In a swift reaction, a large reinforcement was called and over a dozen patrol vans loaded with armed security agents comprising police, army and DSS arrived the scene and faced the Biafran agitators.

Sounds of gunfire and teargas fumes filled the area, particularly between St Patrick Secondary School and St Joseph Catholic Church along the old Abakaliki Road.

One account lamented that the premises of St. Patrick Secondary School was “flowing with blood” as fleeing IPOB members were pursued into the school by security operatives.

The police did not stop there, they later invaded the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH, Ituku- Ozalla and abducted those who escaped being killed at Emene with serious bullet injuries as well as their relations staying with them in the hospital to unknown destinations. 

None of the five South East governors  reacts to issues about herdsmen attacks and reporters who report such occurrences for their various media are regarded as foes, because most of them are either working to be vice presidential candidate to northern candidates or nursing one political ambition or the other, hence they always ignore these issues that affect their people. 

Catholic bishops and their priests had to take to the streets in two South East states over constant abduction and killing of priests before the matter came to the front burner. These alternative approaches sometimes minimise the seriousness of the matters.

Till date, the Southeast Governors Forum, SEGF, and Ohanaeze Ndigbo did not make categorical statements condemning the killing of the unarmed youths. Their muffled responses have left the people feeling more unprotected as they all spoke in muffled voices. 

The Chairman of the SEGF and governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, a very erratic governor, didn't speak or condemn the killing of unarmed youths who were holding a peaceful meeting in the South East.

The Enugu State Governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, where the killing took place, set up a committee on the killing of the members of youths at Emene, but till date, the committee's report or where they met and took evidences from IPOB members, members of the public or heads of the security agencies involved in the genocide is not known. The Committee's report or what has happened to it also, remains unknown till date. 

However, it was not the first time Igbo youths are killed after being branded members of the proscribed IPOB. They had been killed severally and in large numbers at Nkpor in Anambra State, Port Harcourt in Rivers State, Ebonyi and Abia States.

Now, like the North East region now engulfed by terrorism for over 12 years, insecurity in the South East and South South is gradually moving towards more dangerous dimension as people set out to protect their communities from rampaging Fulani herdsmen.

Everybody is watching not doing anything. 

Some are even stoking the crises instead of working to end the crises. 

May God help Nigeria.